Dead Molls Fingers Xylaria longipes

Scientific Name: Xylaria longipes (Ascomycetes).

English Name: Dead Moll's Fingers (a Club fungus).

French Name: Pénis de bois mort (='dead wood penis'); Xylaire à long pied (='wooden long foot').

5 Key Characters:
  • 5 - 10 cm high, 1 cm in diameter.
  • club shaped, cylindrical, often twisted. 
  • very dark blackish brown, rather rough surface, except in spring, when it is covered in a greyish powder.
  • grows on fallen sycamore and beech branches.

Lookalikes: Dead Man's Fingers Xylaria polymorpha, which has fatter longer fruiting bodies. Black Earth Tongue Geoglossum cookeianum, which is smoother and grows in moss on a sandy substrate.

Habitat: Grows on stumps, trunks and dead branches in the leaf litter, but also directly in the soil if there is sufficient debris with lignum. Associated with Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus and Beech Fagus sylvatica.

Fruiting Period: Mature (ie black) fruiting bodies can be seen from September until the first frosts.

Status: Quite rare. The presence of this species in wood is said to improve the quality of stringed musical instruments made from it. Wood is innoculated with the fungus, which alters the structure of the cell walls of the wood and thus the acoustic qualities of the wood are changed. Once it has done its job the fungus is gassed with ethylene oxide to kill it. An anti-microbial substance has been isolated from the fungus which shows promise as a food preservative. Conversely, it has also been tested for use with mopping up residual veterinary antibiotics to prevent them entering the environment via animal faeces.

Edible or Toxic? Not toxic, but of no interest to eat.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

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